In high school, I received a totally bitchin’ Sony cassette player-clock radio combo for my birthday. Thanks to its advanced technology, you could even program the alarm to activate and play the cassette. Excellent, I thought, now I can wake up to some high-quality sounds! But at 6 A.M., those righteous tunes just didn’t sound so righteous (Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits? Really, circa 1992 Adam, not cool). Usually, it took mere seconds to click it off and return to a blissful slumber.
I can picture Jesus, standing over the bed, shaking me by the shoulders, saying ‘It’s time to wake up. The Kingdom is waiting!’
‘Just a few more minutes’, I groggily retort. I slept in my clothes anyway, so I’m pretty much ready to go when I need to be. I’m sure if he showed up with his homemade whip and started turning over my bedroom furniture, I’d jump up and offer him some coffee. ‘You’ll love it, Jesus – we grind our own beans and use a French press!’
But as it is, Jesus and his Kingdom are easy to sleep through, like subtle background noise. Jesus himself compared the Kingdom to seed that grows up unnoticed (Matt. 13:1-23; Mark 4:26-29; Luke 13:18-19), to yeast that works invisibly within dough (Matt. 13:33; Luke 13:20-21) and to hidden treasure that someone would keep secret and sell everything to purchase (Matt. 13:44). All of these parables teach of an underground Kingdom that works in the margins and the unseen dimensions of the world.
Maybe we’d be more alert to it and join in the project if it was more overt. Historically, we’ve favoured an armed-to-the-teeth Kingdom, whose military and political clout we can see clearly and admire. We’ve found it simpler and more straightforward to advance the Kingdom of Heaven through power, to force God’s will upon the masses through shock-and-awe campaigns. When push comes to shove, we’ve wanted to see swords swung, triggers squeezed, missiles launched, Crusades undertaken, witches burnt, the ‘enemies of God’ (read: our enemies) cowering in fear.
But we don’t find the Kingdom of Heaven through the scope of a gun. We find it on the other side, in the firing line. We find it on a cross. We find it in a God who didn’t call upon the force of arms to drive the kingdom forward, but rather absorbed the violence inflicted on him by the political-military machine of the day.
Many Christians in the last 2000 years have found it in places like these. In the coliseums, facing violent death. Among the poor and starving. In the hospitals, caring for victims of plague, at great personal risk. In the war zones, between the two sides, working for peace. In the margins and the unseen dimensions of the world.
And that’s where we should still look for it. But for that, we need to be alert to the traces of the Kingdom’s presence. We need to be dressed and ready to join its activities. We need to be awake.
Feature Image from Best Reviews Guide at https://au.bestreviews.guide/accessory-power-bluetooth-audio-receiver-sonies?loc_redirect=US